Everyone knows hot rod fans who grew up with cars and has been into them since childhood. Then there are those like Ron Kaye, who had no interest until he started looking closer, and then jumped in with both feet.
“This is my fifteenth year in cars, so it’s not that long,” he says. “If I saw an old car going down the street, I figured it still had the old spoked wheels and the old engine. Then Scott Fitzsimmons moved into the neighbourhood. He had a ’32 Ford at the time and I went down and looked at it in his garage. When he showed me the powertrain and how these cars are made, I said, ‘Wow.’”
Born and raised in Peterborough, Ron has been a funeral director all his working life at the Kaye Funeral Home Memorial Chapel. Belonging to a club is nothing new to Ron. He is a past president and life member of the Kinsmen Club of Peterborough, past president of the Bay of Quinte Funeral Association, a member of the Masonic Lodge, on the board of directors at the Kinsmen Garden Court Seniors Residence, and is also the past president of the K-40 Kinsmen Club of Peterborough.
A trip to the Canadian Street Rod Nationals, even before he bought his car, convinced him that this was the type of camaraderie he wanted. “I toured the park and saw all these nice cars and said yes, I want a car, I like this. There were guys sitting behind their cars with their wives, shooting the guff, and I saw that it was all fellowship and it was all good. Scott said, ‘If you want to get into the hobby, I’ll get you a car,’ and he got me a car, a 1934 Ford that I drove for twelve years.”
He joined Early Iron Street Rods and stayed for twelve years, but the club’s increasing inactivity didn’t sit well with him. “I left them and joined this one,” he says. “They’re active and I like the guys. Everybody’s pretty knowledgeable, there is a shop here with equipment and tools so that if you want to fix your own car, the guys are here to help you and the equipment is here to use. And I like that they do charity work. My whole life in Kinsmen is about charity work.”
The 1934 Ford was eventually sold and Ron bought a 1935 Ford sedan. “I’ve done absolutely nothing to it; it’s been a perfect car,” he says. “It has a 327 in it. I’ve been to York three times in it, Syracuse three times, Kalamazoo three times. The ’35 is far more comfortable than the ’34 and if I had the time and the money, I’d drive to California. It’s just like driving my Buick Lucerne, other than it drips through the cowl in heavy rain and it gets on your feet.”
He also owns a 1987 Buick Grand National in partnership with Bill Jewel. He found the car two years ago when he went to visit his niece. “We went to Lindsay to her place for Mother’s Day, and her husband said, ‘Come to the garage and see my car.’ He pulled the cover off it, and I started checking it out. I checked on the Internet what they were worth and how many were made, and a week later I called him and bought it.”
Cars are not his only hobby. In addition to his busy schedule with his service clubs, he’s also into boats – an interest he did gain as a boy through his father. He owns a 2001 Carver Flybridge, 32 and a half feet long, and just as he does with the cars, he makes friends with it. “It’s the same type of environment,” he says. “When you’re boating you meet people on the waterway, and at car shows you meet people in the same hobby as you are. People talk about boats and you talk boats, people talk about cars and you talk cars, and you meet people and some of them become friends for life.”
He and his wife Karen have two sons, Kristopher and Matthew, and they’ve all been in long trips in the hot rod. Kristopher, who is planning to be a mechanic, is showing interest in having a car of his own. “My kids’ generation may be into street rods, or more into cars from the 1980s and 1990s,” Ron says. “I think street rods might become a thing of the past 20 years down the road. They won’t disappear, but there won’t be as many. I don’t think you want to associate Motor City with just street rods. It’s cars. It doesn’t matter what you’ve got.”
Work and family come first, he says, but from there, it’s all about participating with Motor City, especially in the fundraisers and functions. He juggles the car club with Kinsmen through a deep commitment to helping other people through charity work.
As if that isn’t enough, he also follows the Peterborough Petes hockey and Peterborough Lakers Lacrosse, and is a regular fixture on camping weekends with friends to NASCAR races. “We go with twelve guys in two or three trailers. They’ve got the food, the tickets, everyone chips in on the cooking and washing up, and it’s just a fun weekend. I’m a people person. I deal with people all the time.”
And his motto? “My favourite saying,” he confides, “is that Brinks trucks do not follow hearses, so spend it!”